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The Defense Rests

By Jason Perl
Jets Insider.com Contributing Writer
October 17th, 2005
The Jets wasted a great effort by Curtis Martin against Buffalo on Sunday. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
The Jets wasted a great effort by Curtis Martin against Buffalo on Sunday. (Jets Insider.com Photo)
Maybe it was too soon to start thinking playoffs.

Maybe it was too soon to start dreaming of a Super season.

Maybe it was too soon to expect a 41 year old quarterback to carry this team from behind on a day when this team's defense was not at its best. Maybe it was too soon, because these New York Jets need everything to fall right to win games in the post-Pennington 2005 era.

It was too soon because the Buffalo Bills scored early and often en route to a 27-17 victory over Vinny Testeverde and his New York Jets.

On a day when RB Curtis Martin exploded for an 18 carry, 148 yard afternoon (with two runs of 49 and 41 yards), these Jets are supposed to win.

On a day when the oft forgotten Justin McCareins has a very productive 5 catch, 116 yard afternoon, these Jets are supposed to win.

On a day when the defense interceped two Kelly Holcomb passes, one by LB Mark Brown that set up a Testeverde one-yard rushing touchdown, these Jets are supposed to win.

So why did the Jets fall short?

It didn't help that Testeverde threw two interceptions, including one when the Jets were driving early in the 3rd quarter down 17-10, hoping to tie the game.

It was the defense, which in previous games this season has been brilliant holding the team in games with their precarious QB situation.

This Sunday was different. Donnie Hendersonís group faltered. They faltered early and often, putting the Jets in a 14-0 hole before the offense even ran their 9th play of the day. They weren't ready for the Bills short passing game and couldn't contain Bills RB Willis McGahee (29-143-1).

The defense didnít get off the field as the Bills piled up over 38 minutes of time of possession - including three scoring drives over six minutes each.

They allowed 27 points to a team that hadn't broken 20 points in a game all season. They allowed a 2nd half touchdown to a team that hadn't scored one all year. They allowed 177 rushing yards to a Bills team that had previously struggled to get to 100, and 341 total yards - which was the Bills' season high mark.

This Jets defense is good, but let's not confuse them with the Steel Curtain of the 70's, the Bears and Giants of the 80's or the Ravens eariler this decade. While very talented, they still need to become a dominating unit - a defense that can win the game by itself, week in and week out. The Bills offense does not exactly remind you of last year's Colts or the Rams of a few years ago - yet the Jets played like they were. Henderson has to figure out a way to get more out of this unit in the beginning of games. The Jetsí offense, while more dangerous with Testeverde and the re-emergence of Curtis Martin, needs Donnie's defense to play better if the Jets are going to make anything of this 2005 campaign.

There is still hope for the Jets in this year's AFC Eastern Division. With the Patriots loss, both New England and Buffalo sit at 3-3 atop the AFC East. With the Dolphins at 2-3, the Jets sit a game behind the co-leaders at 2-4. This is not last year's AFC East or the division that most football experts agreed could yield two or even three playoff teams in this year's tournament. Most likely, only the AFC East division winner will make the playoffs. As poor as the Jets have started, they are still only one game back of first place. The Jets next play Michael Vick and the Atlanta Falcons on the Monday night stage. The Jets defense needs to show up earlier and keep the game close, so the renewed Curtis Martin can do damage, which in turn, gives Testeverde the time to complete more passes. These Jets are not built to come from behind. There is no room for the defense to have a down week. It's up to Henderson's defense to return to their good play. Otherwise, these Jets will be mired at 2-5 before the bye. That's not a place they can afford to be.

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